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Home /Science / Rise and Fall of the VHS

Rise and Fall of the VHS

By Olivia Harlow

Rise and Fall of the VHS

It’s a clunky box of magic that, when inserted into another clunky box of magic, plays your favorite old-timey films.

What’s the VHS? 

The VHS — or video home system — format was introduced in North America in 1977 at a press conference in Chicago, two years after it was first released in Japan. The awe-inspiring invention featured up to two hours of playtime, as well as quick-paced fast-forward and rewind capabilities. Its immediate popularity kick-started an entire film revolution.

Prior to the VHS, Sony released the Betamax machine in 1975. The assumption was that the Betamax would become the new industry standard for home video. Yet, when JVC released the VHS, a new standard was set. Although a bit lower in terms of picture quality, the VHS allowed double the recording time as the Betamax — an upgrade that eventually lead to the demise of its predecessor.

Soon after its arrival to the States, the VHS took wings, with brands such as 21st Century and Disney jumping on board to release some of their live action classics. (Dear 90s kids: Remember the good ole days when you’d pick a Saturday night movie from a large stack of Disney classics? *Sigh*)

With the rise of VHS tapes came the inevitable rise of video rental stores — a foreign concept in today’s world of on-demand Netflix and HBO Go. Blockbuster was founded in Texas in 1985 and quickly became the biggest rental chain in the country. Hollywood Video started a few years after, becoming Blockbuster’s top competitor.

By the mid-90s, the home video market was so huge that revenue of home video sales was higher than income generated in movie theaters. And this trend only continued into the start of the 21st century, as a new gizmo took swing.

Next Up: DVD

The DVD — digital video disc — was created in the late 90s by the Japanese brand Pioneer. The invention then made its way to the U.S. in 1997. With a sleek design, menu options and higher quality picture, the DVD seemed like an obvious replacement for the seemingly outdated, chunky VHS tape. However, in 2005, about 95 million Americans still owned VHS formats.

But, as the film evolution continued, DVDs started to replace VHS tapes, and in the mid-2000s, on-demand computer apps started to replace video rental stores.

Over time, Hollywood stopped releasing movies on tape. The last movie ever produced on VHS was in 2006. Nowadays, even the DVD is considered outdated, with 3-D movies, virtual reality and Blu-Rays on the rise. Who knows what’s next!

Regardless, one thing is certain: Your VHS tapes matter. Whether it’s a limited version of Aladdin or a gritty 8 mm film of grandpa dancing the Hokey Pokey at his 50th birthday — your home videos are of value. Those hilarious two-minute clips that show Mom taking shots of tequila out of her shoe before prom? Yeah, you don’t want to lose those hilarious — and potentially blackmail — jewels.

The VHS might be dead, but your memories are not.

How We Can Help


Here at Kodak Digitizing, we want you to relive your favorite movies today, tomorrow and 10 years from now. 


Simply order your Kodak kit, fill it with your media — photos, films or audio — and select your format of choice between a USB, DVD or digital download. Send in your box and, in a few short weeks, you'll receive your original memories back with an upgraded, digitized version as well!

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